Once at home on the WAN, Ethernet technologies are now starting to make their way onto WANs, according to Susan Almeida, president of consultancy Network Strategy Partners in Boston. “The idea is to unleash the power of the Ethernet from being inside a building to wide area technology for networking,” she says. A few pioneering network service providers such as Cogent, Telseon, Yipes and a few ahead of the curve enterprises are doing just that, she says. And based on the testing these companies have done, running Ethernet on the WAN makes good sense.
First, Almeida says operating the same technology over both WAN and LAN links will reduce or in some cases altogether remove bottlenecks. “The LAN, which can traditionally run at 10Mbps, 100Mbps or 1Gbps has generally had to be throttled down to run into skinny WAN pipes that run at 1Mbps,” she says.
Second, using Ethernet on the WAN simplifies the network. By using IP, Ethernet and optical technologies on the WAN and LAN, companies can eliminate a lot of unnecessary protocol translations from frame relay and ATM on the WAN to Ethernet, says Almeida.
Of course, there are drawbacks. Almeida says Ethernet on the WAN is not quite as resilient as traditional Sonet technologies for the WAN, adding that the industry is still battling over standards for failover. But most significant, according to Almeida, is that companies have to have fiber in their buildings to run Ethernet on their WAN. “We’re not at the stage where you place an order, turn on a switch and everything’s up and running.”